Back in 2009 (long before his still running “King Charles III” brought him to the attention of a West End audience) playwright Mike Bartlett’s “Cock” was an award-winning success in the intimate space of the Royal Court Upstairs. Staged like a boxing match but with three protagonists, it was a clever, combative and completely engrossing triangular tug of war.
Now he’s written the “Bull” to go with it – and the knives are out – subtly at first – as a trio of suited office employees await the arrival of the boss, Carter (a suitably abrupt Neil Stuke). The company is downsizing and one of them, Apprentice style, will be fired.
Soutra Gilmour’s innovative stage design again puts the contenders in the ring with the audience looking down – although this time the ring is bound by steel, with a water cooler in one corner.
Right from the start, Eleanor Matsuura sets out to undermine Sam Troughton’s Thomas. Initially it seems she’s only being helpful by pointing out that he has something on his face, but that is just a subtle start to a sinister relationship. Once they’re joined by super-confident, two-faced Tony (Adam James) the bullying becomes cruelly overt.
It’s survival of the fittest in the fight for corporate survival, and the insecure, teetotal Thomas doesn’t stand a chance against these determined, dirty players.
Laced with maliciousness, yet funny and compelling throughout, Clare Lizzimore’s 55 minute production doesn’t hold back on its depiction of humiliation in the workplace. It’s just a shame that the Young Vic hasn’t revived the excellent “Cock” to play alongside it.
Young Vic, The Cut, SE1 8LZ
0207 922 2922
Tube: Southwark /Waterloo
Extended to 14th February
£10.00 – £25.00